As I’m boarding this tiny airplane to Tegucigalpa (the capital of Honduras), I’m both sad to leave and excited for my next adventure.
This plane is so small, there isn’t space for an air hostess, there’s 19 seats actually, and I can see the pilot’s cabin. I’m at the back and I can actually read the panels in front of the copilot. The woman on my right just said a quick prayer and the one in front is still on the phone when the machine is shaking from left to right getting more speed, there are some odd cracking noises but we’re off! About 15mins EARLY. Needless to say this is an experience in itself, I was told the mountains and wind make landing quite technical so let’s see. I’m positively scared! [Update: my flight to Tegucigalpa, in fact, stopped in La Ceiba with a wobbly landing, where I had to wait for my “connecting flight” to the big capital. The second plane was a normal size which reassured me lots!]
When I started surfing, it was like I’d opened a whole new world: new people, new places, new aches and also, a new sense of belonging. It’s very much the same with scuba diving. I feel like the world (just as my lungs – for real) has suddenly expended. I was recently reminded that about 70% of Earth’s surface is water. That means I just went from having 30% to 100% of the world to explore! Well…more or less, I’m not sure I’ll dive the Thames or the English Channel but you get the idea. What an extraordinary prospective…
I can also walk and nod politely to other divers with an unspoken understanding: I now “belong” to the crew. Only difference with surfing is that I less feel the need to explain that I can’t actually surf (“I’m not reeeeeeally a surfer, I’m learning!”and then you can avoid the discussion around which boards you own, which in my case is none)- I might not be the best diver yet but at the end of the day, I can go down and I can see stuff! I’m an Advanced Open Water diver. That’s a fact and I’m not gonna lie…I’m quite proud of myself! Isn’t “belongingness” one of the fundamental needs we have?! I’m slowly starting to feel more disconnected from my beloved City of London…if it wasn’t for the lovely souls I know out there (yes, you know who you are!).
Now a bit about my first impressions of Roatan.
Sadly I didn’t have the chance to visit much of the island and stayed in West End pretty much the whole time – which only means I will have to go back as I’ve been told the north and east of the island are mesmerizing…
When I told people I was going to Honduras, I saw looks of horror. Was I crazy?! Well, I can report that I felt very safe… This side of the island is extremely touristy, and although men might try and grab your attention and comment on your “physical attributes” (they’re Caribbean after all), it felt harmless enough. In the daylight anyway. A lot of Hondurans from the main land told me they loved it there and they felt it was so much safer than where they were from. When I asked my taxi driver what was the feeling towards the foreigners living there he said the main 3 expat communities were Americans, Canadian and Italians and added that if it wasn’t for them he wouldn’t have anything to bring back home. Not only they were welcome but there is a conscientious effort to maintain the image of Roatan being a gorgeous and safe place to visit or live. That said, even locals tell you what isn’t safe to do, for exemple:
- Walk via the road from West End to West Bay (or vice versa) – at any time
- Hang out in Coxen Hole on your own at night (especially if you’re a woman)
- Walk on your own at night for any length on the sidewalk – they drive very fast, and there isn’t really much of a pavement so it’s quite dangerous as you’re very close to the road
It’s not as cheap as I imagined. Having such a big community of expats made Roatan a lot more expensive than the “tierra firma” (main land). Vegetables and most fruits are all imported and you have to look out for the small vendors – I used to buy delicious ready-to-eat-cut-for-you mangoes for 10 Lempiras (which is about £0.30) from the guy at the roundabout, such a yummy snack. For a quick & cheap lunch, I’d go for a “baleada” (that’s like a big fat tortilla filled with pretty much whatever you want) for 30 Lempiras (less than £1). There are a few nice restaurants around and I got to eat lionfish – they’re on a mission to get rid of them (read more here) but they are very tasty (also very pretty when you see them on a dive!). I stayed in a hostel that charges £10 per night in dorms – La Buena Onda – but I wasn’t prepared for such a mosquito onslaught there! Life under the tropics has it downfalls and in Roatan, it’s definitely mosquitoes AND sand flies.
So there are ways to make it on the cheap – and compared to London of course, I’m still living the dream. I got to stay in a $40 a night room on the first night but with the most amazing view possible and about 45 seconds from my dive school… It’s all about perspectives, I have another 3 months to go, so I want to be conservative. For a holiday of course, and if you’re into diving, Roatan is possibly the best choice in the area.
If you want to know a bit more about my Advanced Open Water PADI course, what specialties I chose and what they entailed, you can read this here.